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Bougainville rebel leaders reconcile after 17 years

DON WISEMAN | Radio New Zealand International

THREE KEY FORMER Bougainville Revolutionary Army commanders in Papua New Guinea yesterday set aside their differences at a meeting at Panguna.

It is the latest step as the autonomous Bougainville province moves closer to a decision on whether the controversial mine at Panguna can be re-opened.

The three men - Ishmael Toroama of the BRA, Moses Pipiro from the Me’ekamui Unity Government and Chris Uma from the original Me’ekamui faction - agreed to reconcile after 17 years of enmity.

They had split in 1996 after then leader, Joseph Kabui, who later became the first president of Bougainville, agreed to start negotiations to end the civil war.

Rebel leader the late Francis Ona, who had initiated the conflict, was opposed and sparked a split, which was often marked by violent clashes and delayed the province’s recovery from the war.

Mr Uma told those gathered that the reconciliation will bear fruit in the near future.

The three men say any re-opening of the Panguna mine must be sanctioned by the people of Bougainville and not by them as individuals.

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